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 Post subject: McGwire and the Hall of Fame
PostPosted: Thu Dec 28, 2006 4:27 pm 
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Steroids aside, Mark McGwire is not a Hall of Famer in my opinion. He was a one-dimensional hitter who did not dominate at his position for at least 10 years.

Bill Madden last Sunday had an interesting benchmark for Hall of Fame consideration when the case is not clear cut, as with McGwire: 2,000 hits. And he made a very interesting comparison of McGwire with another gigantic slugger, Harmon Killebrew. Here's Madden's piece:

The importance of 2,000 hits

Considering the inevitability of the outcome - Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn will almost certainly be elected with overwhelming pluralities - this year's Hall of Fame election, to be announced Jan. 9, has not lacked intrigue. Specifically, there has been much speculation as to whether this might be the first time a player is elected unanimously (Tom Seaver has the all-time highest plurality with 98.84%, being named on 425 of the 430 ballots cast in 1992, three of which were sent in blank in protest of Pete Rose not being allowed on the ballot).

In addition to that, there's the Mark McGwire steroids issue and the questions of just how much support he'll get. But if we can put the steroids aside for a moment, there are a lot of baseball historians as well as voting members of the Baseball Writers Association who maintain that, his 583 homers notwithstanding, McGwire should not be an automatic first-ballot electee. Indeed, the case can be made that, as a barely adequate first baseman who had only 1,626 hits, McGwire was a one-dimensional player. I have always looked at 2,000 hits as a benchmark for the Hall of Fame.

Case in point: One might say Reggie Jackson was a one-dimensional player, especially since he struck out more than any player in the history of the game and had his share of shaky moments in right field. But for all his strikeouts, Jackson also had 2,584 hits, 958 more than McGwire. And while perceived light-hitting shortstops such as Ozzie Smith, Dave Concepcion and Larry Bowa were all noted for their fielding, all of them had more than 2,000 hits.

The Hall of Fame slugger most compared to McGwire in terms of being one-dimensional is Harmon Killebrew, a below-average third baseman/first baseman who had 573 homers, leading the AL six times. But Killebrew's .256 average is the lowest of any Hall of Famer except catcher Ray Schalk (.253) and because of that, plus his inferior fielding, I didn't vote for Killebrew. But at least he did have 2,086 hits and that was undoubtedly a helpful factor in his being elected to the Hall on his fourth year of eligibility in 1984.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 28, 2006 5:47 pm 
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I agree. But I think (again, steroids aside), those 583 home runs hold a majority of HOF voters in thrall. There's no way, everything else being equal, voters are going to turn away the man who's hit the sixth-most home runs in major league history.

Then again, this is all a sidebar issue for voters. Did McGwire 'roid up? That's the primary issue here, and the media chatter to date pretty much backs that up.


Last edited by Wabberjocky on Thu Dec 28, 2006 7:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 28, 2006 7:12 pm 
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Wabberjocky wrote:
I agree. But I think (again, steroids aside), those 583 home runs hold a majority of HOF voters in thrall. There's no way, everything else being equal, voters are turn away the man who's hit the sixth-most home runs in major league history.

Then again, this is all a sidebar issue for voters. Did McGwire 'roid up? That's the primary issue here, and the media chatter to date pretty much backs that up.


Ah, but everything else ISN'T equal when it comes to McGwire. There's the rub. You're probably right about anyone else having that number of home runs being elected, though Dave Kingman comes to mind as a one-dimensional slugger who never came close to HOF consideration.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 28, 2006 7:19 pm 
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Kingman hit 448 dingers. That puts him in a far more pedestrian career-total tier.

I agree that everything else isn't equal, either. My guess is McGwire never gets in.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 4:40 pm 
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Here's one interesting argument that McGwire should be enshrined if judged strictly by his merits as a player, from Baseball Prospectus' Joe Sheehan:

There’s been some revisionist analysis of Mark McGwire that argues he was a one-dimensional player, a home-run hitter with little else in the way of skills. Now, a year ago, the BBWAA elected Sutter, the most one-dimensional player to ever be so honored. Sutter’s case rested on two poles—he succeeded in a highly-limited role and he specialized in one particular pitch. The argument that a player is “too one-dimensional” to be elected rings a bit hollow the year after that.

To use that argument against McGwire—who drew 1300 walks and had a career .394 OBP—is laughable on its face. But to make a “one-dimensional” argument against McGwire while at the same time allowing Gwynn to pass through is just comic. Gwynn was a singles hitter, a batting-average specialist who was so known for slapping singles that the Padres drew a “56” on the infield in the last days of his career to represent Gwynn’s favorite hole. Gwynn wasn’t one-dimensional throughout his career, but you can point to swaths of it, such as 1990 through 1992, when his batting average was his entire value.

McGwire isn’t the most one-dimensional player who’s a deserving candidate on this ballot, and pasting that label on him while letting Gwynn pass is either ignorant or biased.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 5:34 pm 
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I tend to think of Gwynn and Wade Boggs together, though they differed in many ways.

Boggs, who got into the Hall quickly, was a weak fielder when young but improved through hard work. Gwynn had decent speed and a good arm when young, but lost a great deal of range as he put on weight. (Weight gain matters more to outfielders than to copy editors. Aging singles hitters have less opportunity than sluggers to move to the AL and become DHs in their late 30s when they become a liability in the field.

Boggs hit a lot of doubles, particularly when the Green Monster was his friend in Fenway. Gwynn didn't hit as many as he could have. He was happy to get to first base often and let someone else drive him in. Unfortunately, the Padres seldom had sluggers like those behind Boggs in Boston and New York.

Neither hit many triples or homers. Neither stole much. Neither racked up a ton of RBIs, even when they occasionally hit third.

Boggs was no star in the clubhouse. Gwynn didn't cause trouble, but I don't think of him as a strong leader. (Maybe I'm wrong about this, among other things--I didn't see Gwynn much.)

I don't understand the rush I hear for a unanimous first-ballot vote for either Gwynn or Ripken. Yeah, both belong, but you'd think they were Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 5:51 pm 
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I think it's because both achieved the magic 3,000-hit threshhold and both had a certain media profile and presence.

That's the biggest strike against, say, Bert Blyleven, who's likely to keep getting held out of the Hall, simply because he has 287 wins instead of 300 and wasn't a star as defined by sportswriters. Those same writers can't be bothered to hear about how Blyleven was a career-long victim of below-average offensive run support.

Most sportswriters have their favorites, and will shape their arguments around them. They don't often do what they SHOULD do, which is look at each player objectively and judge them by unswayable empirical criteria.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 6:02 pm 
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It's the Hall of Fame, after all, not the Hall of Stats.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 6:46 pm 
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The Bowa comparison is eye-opening. Certainly does not speak well for McGuire.

As for Kingman, he may have had career (not single-season) numbers comparable to McGuire if he played in the era with Coors Field, Citizens' Bank Park and the other homer-friendly stadia. But that's what makes these different eras so difficult -- how do we evaluate numbers posted by Frank Robinson, Mike Schmidt and Willie Stargell compared to some of today's players?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 7:29 pm 
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We can't, empirically.

What we often allow to happen, however, is for veteran players and scribes go on and on about how players in a past era were better by definition than today's players ... when all they're doing, really, is filtering those players through the gauze of their hazy but precious memories.

Bill James, in his early 1990s book "The Politics Of Glory" (about how players are judged and selected for the Hall of Fame), wrote an interesting chapter about how Frankie Frisch basically hijacked the Veterans Committee in the early 1970s and used his bully pulpit to get all his old St. Louis teammates of the 1920s and early 30s force-fed into the Hall. He argued, apparently, to anyone who would listen that those players were inherently superior because a) of the era in which they played; and b) because he was Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch and by God, he was telling you it was so. And sportswriters quailed before this line of "reasoning."


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 7:44 pm 
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Jayson Stark, on ESPN.com:

If anybody out there has a sensible explanation for how Bruce Sutter got elected last year while Gossage was still finishing 54 votes short, I'd love to hear it. What, exactly, was Sutter's magical qualification that the Goose couldn't match or beat?

OK, so Sutter may have been viewed as more of "a pioneer," for the way he was used and the man-eating split-fingered plummetball he popularized. But the Goose was better. And pitched twice as long. So it's about time this wrong was righted.

But will it be? I bet it won't. Too many voters tend to vote the story line instead of the credentials in years like this. Which means enough of them will want to see Gwynn and Ripken go in alone that they'll leave Gossage off their ballots, even if they voted for him last year.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 10:49 am 
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Yup, writing to fit the ol' story line. Good point.
This happens on pages outside the sports section, too. Especially regarding politics.

I've think we've discussed Gossage before. If he'd quit earlier, before he lost his best stuff, he might already be in the Hall.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 11:51 am 
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It may shock JJ and others to see me weigh in here. While it's well-known that I don't like the 'modern game" (which could give me a bias against recent players), I do enjoy reading about baseball history.

I don't think McGwire merits Hall of Fame consideration. As for Blyleven, one thing I remember clearly about him could be a big strike against him.

I was watching a Phillies game on TV, and they showed Blyleven in the opposing dugout. When he realized he was on TV, he turned straight to the camera, put his index finger into his nose up to the second knuckle and proceeded to flick a major-league booger toward the camera lens.

If behavior like that was standard for him, he probably didn't make a lot of friends among the writers.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 1:27 pm 
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Jayson Stark should read our previous posts. Yes, Gossage belongs. But to say "Yeah, Sutter was a pioneer" is like saying "Sure, Babe Ruth introduced the home-run swat."

I hope no one ever loses sleep over Bert Blyleven. Great curveball, decent pitcher, and a gold star for sticking around long enough to notch a lot of wins (and losses).

And I would consider Tony Gwynn a leader and a mentor. He's now a college coach (San Diego State), which speaks well toward that.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 2:14 pm 
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McGwire fell far short, as expected. Gwynn and Ripken got in, as expected.

It would have been nice this year if there wasn't the distraction of McGwire and a few more borderline players made it in.

But as someone who thinks way too many underserving players have made it in the past, I shouldn't complain that entry was limited to two great players.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 3:00 pm 
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Surprise, surprise. The "storyline" prevails. Sigh.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 4:20 pm 
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Tony Gwynn stole 319 bases and won five gold gloves (though granted, a gold glove isn't always indicative of defensive prowess, given that Rafael Palmeiro won one in a year in which he played about 27 games as a first baseman) to go with his eight batting titles and .338 career average. To argue that Gwynn was one-dimensional is itself laughable. So there. And I don't even pay attention to the National League.

Kingman's stats were quite similar to McGwire's. In addition to neither's having 2,000 hits (Kingman had 1,575 to McGwire's 1,626 in the same number of seasons, 16), Kong never took steroids. His 448 would probably be worth about 600 if he had. McGwire hit .263 for his career; Kingman, .236. McGwire didn't dominate his position defensively for 10 years; Don Mattingly did. Sorry, McGwire doesn't belong.

Gossage shouldn't have had to wait this long. One doesn't have to compare him to Sutter either favorably or unfavorably; Gossage's dominance and stats stand on their own. I think writers would be hard pressed to find one player who loved facing Gossage in his prime, who couldn't wait to tote his lumber up to the dish and stand in against 97-mph BBs thrown by a 6-3 behemoth who was all arms and legs. And he pitched longer outings than today's one-inning closers and shouldn't be penalized for it.

You can find people who will argue anything, though. Today on WFAN in New York, the hosts are arguing that they agree Cal Ripken Jr. is a Hall of Famer but that he was not a "great player." They ran down his stats year by year to point out that there were about seven years in which he was truly dominant and also argued he wasn't a great defensive player.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 4:40 pm 
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It's pointless to argue about Ripken. He is because of a) the streak; b) 3,000 hits; and c) the right media profile.

Gossage's exclusion is inexplicable. All I can think is that he's being punished for having been occasionally assoholic to sportswriters.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 5:12 pm 
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Wabberjocky wrote:
It's pointless to argue about Ripken. He is because of a) the streak; b) 3,000 hits; and c) the right media profile.

Gossage's exclusion is inexplicable. All I can think is that he's being punished for having been occasionally assoholic to sportswriters.


Indeed.

And what of Jack Morris? His 254 wins in an era of five-person rotations and the fact that he was always the No. 1 on whatever staff he was on and his 10-inning shutout in the '91 World Series add up to Hall of Famer to me.

Bert Blyleven had 60 shutouts and ranked third all time in strikeouts when he retired. Hard to argue against those numbers when he pitched on a looooooooooooottta bad teams.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 5:28 pm 
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I believe a lot of players are being punished over things they had nothing to do with:

— Jim Rice is being punished for not hanging around long past his prime and piling up padded career stats. Same with Andre Dawson, to a lesser extent.

— Rich Gossage is being penalized for having spent a good chuck of his effective latter-day career as a setup man in which he compiled few wins or saves.

— Bert Blyleven is being punished for career-long below-average run support.

— Jack Morris is being punished for his 3.90 career ERA, when ERA has been thoroughly discredited among all but the most Cro-Magnon in the press box as a measure of pitching effectiveness.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 6:16 pm 
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Wabberjocky wrote:
I believe a lot of players are being punished over things they had nothing to do with:

— Jim Rice is being punished for not hanging around long past his prime and piling up padded career stats. Same with Andre Dawson, to a lesser extent.

— Rich Gossage is being penalized for having spent a good chuck of his effective latter-day career as a setup man in which he compiled few wins or saves.

— Bert Blyleven is being punished for career-long below-average run support.

— Jack Morris is being punished for his 3.90 career ERA, when ERA has been thoroughly discredited among all but the most Cro-Magnon in the press box as a measure of pitching effectiveness.


Probably all true. I think, though, that Rice and Gossage will get in next year, when the biggest first-time name on the ballot will be Tim Raines'.

I wonder if Raines will get in? 2,605 H, .294 BA, 808 SB (fifth all time), .385 OBP. He was the National League's answer to Rickey Henderson for a lot of years.

Funny how players get twinned between leagues like that, isn't it? Same with Boggs and Gwynn, as Wayne accurately pointed out.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 6:25 pm 
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Raines makes for an interesting debate. I'd vote him in, because I'm a sucker for stat-friendly skills sets. An OBP machine like "Rock" has monster-sized value that still isn't fully appreciated in the press boxes.

I'm reasonably certain he won't make it, based on where voters seem to be arbitrarily drawing the line.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 6:55 pm 
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I'd vote Raines in, too. His numbers fall short of Rickey's, but he was a dominant player at his position for 10 years.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 11:46 pm 
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I just watched clips of Gwynn's reaction interview today, apparently held at the Padres' stadium in San Diego.

I love Gwynn's personality, which shone through as brightly as ever. But I hadn't seen him in a while, and, wow, has he expanded since I had! My man is looking more and more like the late Fred Berry from "What's Happening" before he died. Whoa. I hope someone advises Tony to have a salad one of these days, or he might not be long for this world.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 12:15 am 
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Nobody can say with a straight face that McGwire's stats don't qualify him for the HOF. The key question is, should he be penalized for actions that, at the time, were not illegal in Major League Baseball, or for being a weasel before Congress? I can deal with a one-year penance from the BBWAA, but anything beyond that becomes sanctimonious posturing.

I find it hard to believe that nobody from the '84 Tigers will be in Cooperstown. Cases could be made for Gibson and Trammell, but Morris would be the most deserving of the group.

Never underestimate the benefits of kissing up to the media -- hence the reason Gwynn and Kirby Puckett were no-brainers while Jim Rice will be lucky to get in at all.

Andre Dawson was a great player but knee problems toward the end sent his stats downward toward the end. Same with Dale Murphy, whose stats should get him more consideration, but who IMHO falls just short.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 8:46 am 
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So McGwire didn't get into the Hall because a bunch of writers decided something he did which was legal at the time he did it was a good enough reason to keep him out.
OK, let's take that logic a bit further.
Gaylord Perry, for instance - out. He threw the spitter. It was illegal when he threw it, and he padded his stats by using something illegal.
Everyone who played before 1947 - out. They played in a league which illegally kept black players out of the league, and they, by their participation in the league, condoned that racism. Their stats were padded by their illegal activities, therefore (according to the anti-McGwire group) they can't be in the hallowed Hall.
The Hall would be pretty small if you go by the anti-McGwire logic, wouldn't it?


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 11:26 am 
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How much of a factor is it that Gwynn and Ripken each played their entire career for the same team? I think voters and fans get warm fuzzy feelings for players they see as devoted to a single city. Had Blyleven, Morris, or Gossage never changed teams (or not moved once they established themselves), they likely would have been voted in already. (Although Rice seems to go against this theory ...)


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 11:43 am 
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JeffW wrote:
Had Blyleven, Morris, or Gossage never changed teams (or not moved once they established themselves), they likely would have been voted in already. (Although Rice seems to go against this theory ...)


Very good point, and I agree to some degree. The thing with Blyleven is he wasn't jumping teams as a free agent. He was traded a number of times, which means it wasn't under his control. I note he signed as a free agent with the Twins to finish his career, so he obviously had fond feelings for the city and team.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 12:34 pm 
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I agree that playing an entire career with the same team works in a player's favor at Hall voting time. Probably more so now than before the free agent era.
It won't help Rice much because he wasn't cuddly with fans and, more important, writers. Plus, he didn't linger for as many years past his prime as a revered elder statesman the way Gwynn and "Immortal Cal" (from one of many Balt Sun tributes to Ripken) did.

Scattered thoughts:

I was a big Tim Raines fan. He was one of the few stars shorter than me. Walked up to him at spring training his rookie season; couldn't have been more than 5'7" or so in cleats on asphalt.
Early in his career he went through a period of drug abuse [not the s-word kind] that hindered his play and might have led to injuries. Some writers might hold this against him the way some did with Fergie Jenkins and others from the 1970s and 1980s.

Cocaine hurt the careers of some of the most talented players of that era. There's no telling how good Dave Parker or Doc Gooden or Daryl Strawberry would have been if they hadn't spent years in a fog.
Unsubstantiated rumors about some players' illegal drug use haven't kept them out of the Hall.
Lessons: 1. If you have an addictive personality, know what you're getting into.
2. Don't get caught.

Of course, before, during and since that time alcohol has damaged careers. How good might Mickey Mantle and Sam McDowell have been? But you can buy beer in a stadium--in fact, it's pushed on fans and available in some clubhouses.

I expect McGwire to get more votes next year, but wonder how many years it'll take for him to be inducted. What happens in the next few years with Bonds and others accused of using performance-enhancing substances might affect this. As with the previous generation of players, perceived off-field errors will lead to delays in induction.

Let's face it: Hall of Fame membership is largely a popularity contest with sociopolitical agendas (such as opposition to McGwire's andro use and Pete Rose's bets) factoring in.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 1:40 pm 
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Was Jim Rice not "cuddly" enough or not white enough?


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 2:36 pm 
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jjmoney62 wrote:
Was Jim Rice not "cuddly" enough or not white enough?


Being white would help.
But so would having an image like Kirby Puckett's before the police reports were filed. Or talking as easily with the press as Gwynn did. (That's not a slam against Gwynn.)

I wouldn't want to be a black athlete in Boston. You can see the strain on even David Ortiz, who's a media darling decades after Rice's retirement.

Some black stars of Rice's generation who avoided the press were good teammates and good people, despite the somewhat surly image created for them. I'm thinking of Rice and Eddie Murray in particular. (Murray was an excellent fielder and had a long career with huge numbers, so he had to be voted into the Hall.)

I hope Rice gets in soon. I'm a big Murray fan, too, even though the BoSox were the team of my youth.


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